House rent hike main reason for RMG labour unrest: buyersStaff Correspondent
Foreign and local buyers of apparel at a meeting on Wednesday said that the major reason behind labour unrest in the export-oriented apparel factories was frequent increases in house rents, especially in labour-intensive industrial belts in and around the capital.
Business leaders and buyers in the RMG sector expressed their concern at a meeting with the labour minister, Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, at the secretariat, saying that the inflation and ‘uncontrolled house rents’ might intensify the unrest across apparel factories, officials said.
‘Buyers are concerned that frequent increases in
house rents may intensify the workers’ agitation in the apparel industry. They have identified the uncontrolled house rent as a major reason behind the labour unrest,’ Mosharraf Hossain told reporters after the meeting.
The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry president, AK Azad, regional social responsibilities director of JC Penny Purchasing Corporation Jenefa Jabbar and senior social responsibilities specialist Tamanna Sarwar, among others, attended the meeting.
The buyers said that house rent was being increased twice and even three times in a year, sparking off agitation among the workers who found it very tough to mange their lives with the wages last increased in 2010.
The workers’ agitations for pay hike and also against an abnormal increase in house rents erupted in June that led to the closure of almost all apparel units at Ashulia, the industrial belt on the outskirts of the Dhaka city, for over a week.
‘The government is concerned more about controlling house rents instead of increasing their wages at the moment as raising their pay would only lead to further increase in rents,’ the minister said.
He said that the deputy commissioners concerned had already been instructed to enforce the premises rent control act so that the landlords could not increase rents at their whim.
‘DCs have been ordered to take steps to check illegal increase in house rents. If necessary, they will run mobile courts against the ill-practice of house owners that affects the tenants,’ Mosharraf Hossain said.
The minister, however, rejected the claim by the US ambassador in Dhaka, Dan W Mozena, that the buyers from his country were worried about the condition of the RMG sector in Bangladesh, especially after a series of violence at Ashulia and also the killing of labour leader Aminul Islam.
The ambassador gave a warning that if such a situation prevailed, they would not want to continue business here.
‘I have talked with buyers. They do not find the situation too bad to continue business here,’ the minister said.
As for killing of Aminul, Mosharraf said, ‘Aminul is not the only person who was killed in the country. Five to 10 people are killed a day as we see in newspapers.’
Still, intelligence agencies were investigating the killing of Aminul to establish the killers, he added.
The minister, however, said, that the government had already allocated Tk 1 billion for building dormitories for workers.
The factory owners would be able to take loans from the fund kept with the Bangladesh Bank at 1 per cent interest to construct dormitories for workers.
The food division also initiated a move to provide food rations for workers, the minister said.
The government on Tuesday instructed all concerned in RMG factories to ensure that workers get their due wages and festival allowances before Eid-ul-Fitr in August to avoid any chaos in the sector already facing demonstrations of workers for pay hike and job security.
The home ministry is scheduled to sit with the representatives of the RMG factories today amid the ongoing labour unrest at Ashulia over the non-payment of wages and job insecurity.
The export-oriented apparel sector which has around 40 lakh employees, mostly women, earns more than $20 billion in foreign exchange a year.
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